Side Stringers

The side stringers are the sides of the boat.  So far everything we’ve been doing was stuff inside; here we finally tackle something that will ultimately keep water out.  Yikes!  And because of the complexity of the build and our boat-tardedness,  it took us about seven hours per side to assemble.

In our last build day, we finished assembling the keel stringer and the two skeg stringers.  We used the plywood  cut for the side stringers as a pattern to ensure that all of the stringers would be identical(ish). 

I’ll spell a few things out here so you can appreciate the challenge of assembling the side stringers:

  • The plywood for the sides was in 3 big pieces; 
  • There were two long (and slightly warped) pieces for the top and bottom, and two end pieces cut at a slightly incorrect angle (remember that pesky 3 degrees?); 
  • Once the pieces are coated in thickened epoxy, everything is slipperier than a greased pig; 
  • And to top it all off, all screws holding it all together needed to go in from the outside (plywood side) with all the loosey goosey bits skittering around underneath as we try to put in screws from above.

Pretty much a recipe for disaster.

We hit on a helpful idea:  Temporary screws from the inside.  We could butter it up, put the pieces in place, and use temporary screws all the way through the two-by pieces and the plywood to hold everything together.  Then we can flip the whole thing over and put all the permanent screws in the plywood from the outside.  Later we remove the temporary screws.

Okay!  Sounds like a plan.  Or a sketch of a plan.  A lot of critical things needed to go right, so we made a step-by-step plan.  Later referred to in arguments during the day as “The Plan.”  As in “Stick to The Plan!” or “Oh God, are we changing The Plan?”

The Plan was the thin dividing line between slightly stressful work and sheer madness.  The illustration on the corner of The Plan was what we didn’t want to happen.

So we did the usual and put wax paper under everything, and coated everything with the first thin coat of epoxy.  This is more like painting, familiar, and not too hectic.

Then we tackled the butt blocks.  This is where the sheets of plywood that form the sides meet.  We put these in first, because we wanted to make sure that when we started attaching the two-by pieces the plywood wouldn’t move or shift.  The butt blocks are six inches wide, buttered liberally with thickened epoxy (including between the two ends of the plywood) and secured with an assload of screws.

Then we got serious and epoxied all the two-by bit, including all of the ends where they would meet each other.  We secured them down temporarily with long deck screws to the plywood (and accidentally to the floor in a few places).

In a harrowing effort (would it stay together?!) we flipped the stringer over so the plywood side was facing up.  Now we could put in all of the stainless steel screws required by the plan.  A screw every two or three inches.  That’s a lot.

At this point, we are tired, probably dehydrated, covered in sticky epoxy, tangled in extension cords, our hair is falling in our eyes as we bend down, and little flies have decided that now would be a good time to investigate our nose and ears.  Our latex gloves are torn and getting tangled in the drill bit as it turns, the screws are not very sharp and so are not going in very readily, and there is still a lot of work to be done before the epoxy completely sets.  Just wanted to set the scene here.

But naturally, we handled it with superhuman grace, no one got frustrated whatsoever, and we maintained our amazing good humor throughout.  Any stories you hear to the contrary are lies made up by our enemies to slander us.

Kai hit on the brilliant idea to start the screws in the proper
location with a few knocks of the hammer.  So she went around, ahead of
the drill, putting in screws at the requisite distance, staggering them as necessary.  Again, we’d
discovered the razor edge of sanity and found the narrow path just this side of it.

So in the end, we had a side stringer.  And after another long day, we had two side stringers.  Woot. 
Here, all five stringers are in place.  The cross beams connecting them are a sneak preview of the next build day.  
Again, looking at our work at the end of the day, the boat is much more boaty.

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